Austra - Feel It Break

Modern, but beautifully dated at the same time.

The first thing you hear of Austra when playing ‘Feel It Break’ is a singular, menacing synth note, which serves as something of a statement for the album. Through the coming 47 minutes there’s everything from Kate Bush highs to The Knife lows through instrumentation that spans 1980 - 1984; an overly fashionable sound perhaps (the mix of EBM pulse with early Human League and a strong female voice has been overused horrendously of late), but done really well. This is the first of all the current Fever Ray-alikes to get close to challenging her for the queendom of post Kate Bush pop.

It may be unfair to compare Austra to Karin Andersson’s output, but it’s such an obvious influence. Where Andersson’s work in both Fever Ray and The Knife is generally well thought out and complex however, Austra take the lighter side of the affair, making music that’s more about the general sound than the intricacies; it’s a pop record. While ‘Fever Ray’ as an album was full of surprises and gifts for the intrepid listener, a few casual listens of ‘Feel It Break’ gives you as much as you’ll ever learn for it. There’s nothing profound, no twists and turns waiting to reveal themselves - it’s an upfront affair.

Having said that, it’s hardly a criticism to be accessible. This album’s gift is how much closer and more faithful to the 80’s sound it is compared to most of its contemporaries. It’s modern but beautifully dated at the same time – lead single ‘Beat & The Pulse’ is a prime example of this; the pulsing beat isn’t dissimilar from Japan or Human League, but there’s something of the current in there, something that takes it above being a retro fetishism record. The answer may lie in the structure: ‘Feel It Break’ ebbs, flows and builds, but in a very claustrophobic and tight atmosphere, something more akin to 90s dance than to the more spacious sounds of the 80’s dancefloor, which makes it feel more a development of the early 80’s sound than a throwback track.

While not sounding revolutionary or complicated, Austra have managed to craft a fine album. It’s refreshing to hear ‘serious’ music and not have to dig deep into it to find meaning, struggling to understand both the music and lyrics. On the other hand, there’s no danger of this changing your life.

Tags: Austra, Reviews, Album Reviews

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